As the Philadelphia half and full marathons approach this weekend (November 19th & 20th), I wanted to provide a short, 15 minute, yoga sequence for all the runners out there who need to stretch out the areas of their bodies that get tight from running. I recommend that you do this video post-run since current common wisdom is that static stretching is better for your body after your workout, rather than before. Dynamic stretches are better pre-run and I’ll be leading runners of the half and full marathon this weekend through a series of dynamic stretches immediately before the race (6-7am on Saturday and 5:30-6:30am on Sunday at Eakins Oval in front of the Art Museum). In this video we will open up the soles of the feet, calves, quads, hamstrings, hips, and chest. Through doing these kinds of stretches to balance out your body, you will be able to perform at your best this weekend. Enjoy!
As a dancer for my entire life and a yoga practitioner for the past 9 years I can speak directly to the benefits of a consistent yoga practice for dancers. Having a dedicated yoga practice has allowed me to continue dancing when I once thought I would have to stop completely due to an injury. And practicing yoga has improved my dancing and my life in innumerable ways.
1. Yoga builds strength and flexibility.
As a dancer, flexibility is often a primary focus. However, the reality over time is that working solely on your flexibility without counterbalancing that with strength can, and most likely will, lead to injuries. To increase your flexibility in a sustainable and safe manner, you must know how to engage your muscles first and then stretch. Yoga, taught correctly, will give you the skills you need to stretch with strength. At the end of the day, for the health and well-being of your body and your dancing, you need to be as strong as you are flexible, and as flexible as you are strong.
2. It is a great way to “put your body back together” and/or keep your body in good alignment.
A number of styles of yoga, including the one that I teach, focus on proper or optimal alignment for the body. Because of this, practicing yoga can increase your body awareness and help you to find the healthiest and most sustainable ways to move and heal your body. Yoga is a great way to balance out any asymmetries in the body that arise from dance or from any other aspect of your life.
3. Yoga promotes and enhances your mind-body connection.
Having the space to work with your body as it is, rather than as you wish it would be, is a wonderful gift. A yoga class creates the space for this to happen. Learning to listen to your body and what it wants is very important to both the mental and physical health of any dancer. A yoga practice asks you to become more involved in your mind-body connection so that you can listen and respond to what is best for you on any given day; to back off when you need to or to push further when you can. The heightened awareness that you develop through yoga helps you to be both healthier and happier.
4. Yoga is a great way to build community.
Yoga classes are a fantastic way to meet new and wonderful people. I have always found that yogis are extremely friendly. Especially if you attend a yoga class regularly, you will begin to see the same people over and over and will inevitably become friendly with them. Yoga classes build a supportive and positive community, that helps to uplift everyone involved.
My word of the day today in YogaHour was “oatmeal.” Why? Because the oatmeal that I have for breakfast every morning is one of the things, if not THE thing, that gets me out of bed in the morning. When I wake up I think, “oh yea, I get to have my oatmeal again.” We all need these sorts of things in our lives, the things that we look forward to, even on a daily basis because they make us appreciate life all that much more. Since it brings me so much joy, I thought I’d share it with you in case it appeals to you too. I’ve found these ratio of ingredients to be perfect for me, but feel free to adopt and adjust to suit your tastes.
Teagan’s Fabtabulous Oatmeal Recipe
1.5 lbs (24 oz) quick cook oats (you can use old-fashioned or steel-cut too, it will just increase the cooking time)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup shelled hemp seeds
1 1/2 cup dried fruit (I usually use a combination of fruits including raisins, cherries, cranberries, goji berries, strawberries, dates, figs, etc.)
3/4 cup of dried mix (above) (this is a large serving, so you may want to cut it down to 1/2 cup depending on how much you like to eat for breakfast)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated ginger (I buy the big jar of ginger from an Indian grocery store so I don’t have to grate it every morning)
1 eye dropper of stevia (adjust as necessary for how sweet you like your oatmeal)
1/2 banana, sliced thin
1/4 – 1/2 cup frozen fruit (I like to buy the mixed berry packs or just the raspberries or strawberries)
optional toppings: 2 tablespoons of greek yogurt (any flavor) or 1 teaspoon ghee (this makes it taste like shortbread to me, yum!)
1) Start by preparing the “dry mix” of ingredients. Mix everything on the list together and put in a storage container so you have it ready to go in the mornings.
2) On the mornings when you’re feeling excited about oatmeal (for me that’s every morning!), combine the “individual serving” ingredients in a small saucepan on the stove with some water (depends on how thick or runny you like your oatmeal). Cook on high heat stirring continually until frozen fruit is warm, approximately 5 minutes.
3) Pour the oatmeal into a bowl and top with a few tablespoons of your favorite greek yogurt. I like having some diary in my yogurt, so if I don’t have any yogurt on hand I will put a teaspoon of ghee in with the oatmeal on the stove.
I hope you enjoy this as much as I do! Please share your comments below. xo
I have never been one of those butterflies and rainbows kind of girls.
But, I recently heard a podcast about butterflies that has had me thinking about it ever since. It was an episode of Radiolab called Black Box wherein they explore three different black boxes – “those peculiar spaces where it’s clear what’s going in, we know what’s coming out, but what happens in-between is a mystery.” One of these black boxes was what happens during metamorphosis, from when the caterpillar becomes a pupa, a.k.a. a chrysalis, until it emerges as a butterfly.
In the Radiolab podcast we learn that the caterpillar, after only one day in the chrysalis, turns into a pale white/yellow goo. The caterpillar liquifies, organs dissolve, muscles melt, some cells rupture. It becomes a soup of cells. And this soup is what is “magically” transformed into a butterfly.
Starting in the 1600s and continuing for a long time thereafter, it was believed that the caterpillar entered the chrysalis, died, and then out of the dead caterpillar, a butterfly was born. It was a story of death and resurrection.
Now we know differently.
It has been proved that memories of the caterpillars carry through to the butterfly stage. For example, one scientist put caterpillars in a box and gassed them with a nasty smell. Once they could smell it, they were zapped repeatedly for 10 seconds at a time. Consequently, the caterpillars hated that particular smell. The moths that emerged from the chrysali of these caterpillars also hated the smell. Somehow a spec of brain made it through the goo stage and within that spec of brain was nestled this one memory about the nasty smell.
Another scientist sliced a caterpillar lengthwise and showed that some of the structures of the butterfly were already formed inside, including the wings, antennae, and legs. The caterpillar starts to grow little adult parts that are tiny and transparent. It then keeps them tightly rolled up and hidden up against the edges of the chrysalis. They don’t go thru the goo or become the goo.
What can we learn from this? That the process of metamorphosis is not about death, it is about transformation!
And what, you may well ask, does this have to do with yoga?
Well, yoga is a transformative practice. When you practice yoga consistently, dilligently, your life will be transformed. The transformation is not the same for everyone, but to transform is part of the practice.
When I first started practicing yoga, I thought that there were parts of it that were a bit hokey. There was “weird” chanting and “funky” breathing and even having to lay still for any period of time was challenging. My sister worried that I was getting involved in some sort of yoga cult. I was afraid that devoting myself to a practice that felt so good and one that I could see and feel the positive changes from, was going to lead me to becoming a person I didn’t know and one that I wasn’t sure I would like because of the parts of the practice that I didn’t understand or connect with at that time.
Hearing this story about metamorphosis and transformation reminded me of my yogic journey and how much my life has changed because of this amazing practice. But, more importantly, it reminded me that throughout the transformation I have been and always will be me. What this story about butterflies highlights is that no matter what kinds of transformations we go through in our lives, we will always, at our core be the same great people. Our morals and core beliefs don’t have to shift, unless greater education leads you to realize that they need to. The process of transformation is a dialogue, not a monologue. You can take what you need from it and leave the rest. Be yourself. Love yourself. And be open to transformation, knowing that even as you shift and change, you will remain true to those parts of you that are the most essential and true. The wings that you need to fly are already inside of you.
If you’re interested to hear the story that inspired this blog post:
The butterfly portion begins at 50:00.